And tonight, the campaign launched a more specific campaign: an effort to disrupt the appearance by a writer for National Review, Stanley Kurtz, on a Chicago radio program. Kurtz has been writing about Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers, and has suggested that papers housed at the University of Illinois at Chicago would reveal new details of that relationship.The campaign e-mailed Chicago supporters who had signed up for the Obama Action Wire with detailed instructions including the station’s telephone number and the show’s extension, as well as a research file on Kurtz, which seems to prove that he’s a conservative, which isn’t in dispute. The file cites a couple of his more controversial pieces, notably his much-maligned claim that same-sex unions have undermined marriage in Scandinavia.”Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse,” says the email, which picks up a form of pressure on the press pioneered by conservative talk radio hosts and activists in the 1990s, and since adopted by Media Matters and other liberal groups.”It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves. At the very least, they should offer sane, honest rebuttal to every one of Kurtz’s lies,” it continues.
Stanley Kurtz is an adjunct fellow of Hudson Institute and a fellow at the Hoover Institution with a special interest in America’s “culture war.” In addition to his regular contributions to National Review Online, Kurtz’s writings on the family, feminism, homosexuality, affirmative action, and campus “political correctness” have appeared in Policy Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Commentary.
Before turning his attention to America’s cultural battles, Kurtz was a social scientist specializing in family life and religion. He received his Ph.D. in social anthropology from Harvard University and later taught at Harvard, winning several teaching awards for his work in a “Great Books” program. Kurtz was also Dewey Prize Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Chicago.
If the Obama team disagrees with Kurtz or thinks he has his facts wrong, fine. They are free to offer counter arguments and present the facts as they see them. But what Obama is trying to do is intimidate the media and attack the character of a well respected writer. What they are trying to do, and have been attempting from the start, is make criticism of Obama off limits.
Kurtz is conservative. So what? He is a scholar and journalist. Since when is it OK to sick your supporters on a radio station just because they have a guest you disagree with? Since when is it OK to try and shut down those who disagree with you?
The campaign was given the opportunity to respond and to be on the program with Kurtz. They refused. They would rather have their supporters attack the radio station and Kurtz personally then have an open debate on the issue. What happened to liberals vaunted belief in free speech and open debate? It goes out the window with The One.
As Jim Lindgren points out, ironically if Obama had denounced Ayers with the passion he has unleashed on Kurtz he wouldn’t have this problem:
Kurtz, unlike Ayers, is denounced in the most vicious and uncivil terms (there is a lot more than I quoted). If Obama or his campaign had ever denounced Ayers with the fervor that his campaign has now used in denouncing Kurtz, Obama wouldn’t be having trouble on his connection to Ayers. And I’m not suggesting that Obama should have denounced Ayers. I am just noting the grossly disproportionate responses of the Obama campaign to their differing offenses and the Obama campaign’s direct attack on Kurtz’s character, not just what he’s done or said – including very explicitly using arguments of guilt by association against Kurtz (which of course are being used against Obama, despite the protestations to the contrary of his critics).
And, as we have come to expect, Obama refuses to make all the facts known on his own anti-smear website:
I went to Obama’s official Fight the Smears page to read the transcript of what Kurtz said, and there was nothing there about Ayers. If Kurtz actually said what the Obama campaign said he said (Kurtz was “claiming Ayers had recruited Barack to the board of the Annenberg Challenge”), they should allow us to read the transcript. Since the Obama campaign is so emphatic in their email, perhaps my memory of what Kurtz said is wrong. I find it strange that the Obama’s Fight the Smears website does not lay out the details of their relationship, including how Obama was hired by Annenberg.
Obama had plenty of chances to make this a non-issue. He never, that I am aware, took that chance to disassociate himself from Ayers in any way until the primary. Even then he dismissed Ayers as someone who lives in his neighborhood. It is clear that Obama and Ayers had a working relationship on at least some projects.
And when a reporter does legitimate research into the extent of that relationship and the policy outcomes that resulted, Obama not only seeks to shut him down and silence him, but attacks his character.
This kind of response may be acceptable in Chicago Machine politics, but it is not acceptable from a candidate for president.
Note: you can listen to the Kurtz interview here.